Norman Borlaug Interview

President George W. Bush along with House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi congratulate Borlaug during the Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony on July 17, 2007

Norman Borlaug (March 25, 1914 - September 12, 2009) is known as the father of the Green Revolution.

His work with high-yield, disease-resistant wheat varieties is credited with saving as many as a billion people from starvation worldwide.

Borlaug was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 in recognition of his contributions to world peace through increasing food supply.

He is one of only five people to receive the Congressional Gold Medal, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Nobel Peace Prize. The others are Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr. and Elie Wiesel.

Borlaug is a distinguished professor at Texas A&M University, where he continues to fight world hunger.

He spoke with Nobel Laureates editor Nathan Gardels in April of 2009.

Q: As the father of the original Green Revolution of the '60s and '70s, you are now calling for a second revolution. What happened to the first Green Revolution, and why is it important that we initiate a new one?

Norman Borlaug:

We made great strides toward global food security in the first Green Revolution by bringing improved agricultural techniques, new high-yielding seeds and modern technology to poor, under-developed and developing countries. But in the next 50 years we're going to have to produce more food than we have in the last 10,000 years, and that is a daunting task. The first Green Revolution hasn't been won.

In fact, the successes of that first revolution may have led to a false sense of security about our ability to bring worldwide food security.

Q. Why is it vital that we act now to ensure future global food security?

Norman Borlaug:

When I was born 95 years ago, the world population was about 1.6 billion. Now we're rapidly approaching 7 billion.

We need to find ways to employ technology and science to increase production to feed a hungry planet. Along with a worldwide decline in living standards, we have already experienced a worldwide food price crisis and there have been food riots in Haiti, Egypt and Bangladesh.

If we do not recognize those as a possible portent of things to come and ignore their significance, failing to act promptly, the consequences could be devastating for all of us.

Q: What are some of the areas and food security issues that require the most immediate and serious attention?

Norman Borlaug:

There are numerous African countries, especially countries in sub-Saharan Africa, in a food security crisis.

Other countries include India, Pakistan Bangladesh, Egypt, Yemen and Afghanistan in the Near and Middle East, China, Myanmar and Laos in Asia, Honduras and Bolivia in Latin America, and Haiti in the Caribbean.

There is also the potential for a widespread problem with wheat rust, which has already affected harvests in East Africa and Yemen and could destroy a significant portion of a major crop for many developing countries if left unchecked.

In fact, almost anywhere in the world where agricultural production is insufficient for the existing population and production is seriously affected by disease, global warming, a lack of agricultural infrastructure, an exodus from family farming, or an absence of technology or government support, there is need for attention.

Q: The global economic situation is causing many developed countries to turn toward more domestic concerns. How is this affecting global food security?

Norman Borlaug:

The worldwide financial meltdown has caused many developed countries to reduce funding and take their eyes off the issue of global food security when they should be providing more assistance instead of less. The ever-increasing interdependence of the world's nations means wherever there is a problem with food access and availability -- or worse, malnutrition and starvation -- it affects all of us.

As I have said on many occasions, peace cannot be built on empty stomachs.

As the world leader in agriculture, this also presents the U.S. with remarkable opportunity in the realm of international relations.

Q: Whom do you see as the "foot soldiers" in this new Green Revolution?

Norman Borlaug:

Developing nations need the help of agricultural scientists, researchers, policymakers and others to improve agricultural production.

Now more than ever, I feel young professionals in agriculture and agribusiness need to become involved in contributing to global food security by sharing their knowledge and bringing agricultural leadership to less-developed counties.

Thomas Jefferson once said, "Every generation needs a new revolution," and I feel there is no greater effort toward which members of this current generation can devote their time, talent and education than toward helping fight world hunger and establishing a sustainable global food security.